If you've been reading this blog since the beginning, you'd know I'm a big fan of Tokusatsu, especially the Super Sentai and Kamen Rider franchises. So it's not an exaggeration to say this review comes with a bit more bias than usual. Upon watching the recent Power Rangers movie from Lionsgate, I was actually surprised at how much I liked it.
Power Rangers tells the story of a group of troubled teens, each with their own hangups and problems in life. And it's very well done. The actors, for one, are superb in their roles; and its obvious that the director was trying to get the feel of John Hughes' iconic teen film The Breakfast Club. While this movie is nowhere near as well made as Hughes' film, it's still pretty impressive for a genre remake. The Rangers feel like relatable human characters instead of cardboard cutouts. And I think films like The Breakfast Club are a perfect template to use for a movie like this: the teenage years are often a time when one tries to assert their own individuality; it's a time when some teens have the most difficulty trying to fit in, despite the fact that sometimes it's okay not to fit in at all. The Ranger suits/armor for me serves as a way for these teenagers to be who they really are - unique, nuanced individuals - in a sea of adolescent social hierarchies and cliques.
This focus on characterization makes you feel for the Rangers as the plot moves on to the spectacle of the third act of the film, where they do battle against original series antagonist Rita Repulsa (Elizabeth Banks). Here the tone shifts to what I've been accustomed to with Power Rangers the show and in Super Sentai. These shows are for the most part, catered to kids, and the show often mixes a tone that is over the top, silly and serious at the same time. There are a lot of silly jokes near the end of the film, and Banks hams it up as much as one possibly can. I think the filmmakers caught this tone very well, though the shifts may prove jarring for people not used to the show.
The movie does use nostalgia a bit, but in a very measured way. It does not point to the nostalgic material and go "hey, look at this! remember this? cool, huh?" Instead, it eases us into it as some sort of reward. It goes and tries to be its own thing without relying too much on other things, and that's something I think a lot of big franchise films tend to forget these days. It focuses on characters instead of setpieces, rare for today's movies that prefer spectacle and eyecandy and forced intertextuality.
The film does have its share of problems, I'll admit. I wish the film could have extended some of its action sequences, especially the fight on the ground with Rita's mooks. The movie also ends in a weirdly edited place, and the plot is pretty much a no-brainer. Despite that, I appreciate the simple approach taken with this film. If a sequel does get made, it will be interesting to see where the filmmakers take these interesting characters in something that's not an origin story, for one.